LONDON, England, May 25 – England star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family have become the latest to decide against supporting their son at Euro 2012, amid fears about racism in tournament co-hosts Ukraine.
Family members were planning to support the 18-year-old Arsenal midfielder in his first call-up to the England squad but pulled out due to concerns that black players and their relatives will be targeted by a violent, racist minority.
Last week, the family of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal and England team-mate, Theo Walcott, said they would not take the risk to travel after public warnings about safety from the British government.
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s father Mark Chamberlain, a former England international in the early 1980s when black players were regularly subjected to racist taunts, confirmed his family had no plans to see their son at the Euros.
But he conceded that he might be willing to change his mind should the teenager feature in Roy Hodgson’s team in the latter stages.
“It’s just my personal choice really,” the former Port Vale, Stoke City and Portsmouth winger told Sky Sports News.
“It’s nothing definitive but there have been reports over the last couple of weeks of racist taunts and threats, so it’s just prudent for myself to keep away from it.
“It’s very disappointing but your safety’s more important than a game of football.
There’s been a concerted effort and a campaign to tackle racism. In this country it seems to have gone well but unfortunately in other parts of the world not so well.
“At this moment in time there are concerns. If England do well and if Alex is involved more than I think he may be, then a decision will be made at that time.”
Racism has been a recurring problem in Ukrainian football and, with England due to face France and Ukraine in Donetsk as well as playing Sweden in the capital Kiev, the Foreign Office have outlined the dangers to supporters.
“Although the vast majority of visitors experience no difficulties, foreign nationals have been the victims of violent crime in Kiev and other major cities,” a Foreign office statement in a fans’ guide to the tournament read.
“In some cases, attacks have been racially motivated. Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.”
England defender Joleon Lescott said his family had decided to stay at home before the warnings were issued, as travelling between the team’s match venues promises to be a lengthy and expensive experience.
But the Manchester City player conceded it was worrying to read so many negative stories about the potential reception for black players and their families.
“It was quite alarming to see the reports about the situation out there,” Lescott said.
“But even before the reports, my family weren’t going anyway. Maybe if I’m playing and we get to the final, my family will want to go.
“But it’s a shame for some members of for some members of the squad that their families feel they can’t go.”